Go With God!

DSCN8192

Magnolia – April 10, 2017

 

In my last post, I spoke of how the Lord paved the way for me to follow Him, and how grateful I am for His providential care in my life. Of course, as with everyone, the choice was mine to make, but I am living proof of what the power of God can do when we decide to follow Christ. I haven’t regretted it.

For long-time believers such as myself, it’s easy to forget what it was like before we accepted the gift of salvation, but I was quickly reminded by participating in a group exercise several weeks ago that got me thinking about the “big picture” of my faith. On each side of 3×5 cards, we were asked to write down what life looks like with God, and without God, and how things could have been much worse had He not been pursuing us.

This is what I wrote:

Without God

GOOD isn’t enough – Lame
BAD gets worse – Hopeless
UGLY leads to – Death

With God

GOOD feels great! – Joy!
BAD prepares for ugly – Strength!
UGLY can be overcome – Victory!

Here’s what I mean…

Without God

GOOD things in my life, though enjoyable, were ultimately empty. Dissatisfaction leads to a never ending quest for more. Joy is shallow and fleeting, if this life is all there is.
Likewise, the good things I did for others apart from God, while nice, have only a temporary effect with no eternal worth. I can do nothing truly “good” (in the highest sense of the word) on my own.

BAD circumstances are a part of life, whether you are a follower of Christ or not. However, without God, they can easily devolve into even worse predicaments. We can grit our teeth and bravely move forward (like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti western), but without God we all eventually become run down, discouraged and even despondent. We make fear-based decisions or use the limited wisdom of the world. Either way, sooner or later the wheels fall off, leaving us in worse shape than before.
God often uses bad circumstances to get our attention, but some of us take quite a few hard knocks before we turn to Him. Yet He never stops pursuing us.

UGLY events, such as accidents, unexpected death or other tragedies bring us face to face with our own mortality. Recently an extended family member suddenly passed away, so lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about eternity.
Without God, even the ugly parts of life that don’t “do us in” will break our spirit at the very least, and can indeed prove to be fatal, for relationships, for our mental health and for our physical bodies. Without God and faith in Jesus, I would still be lost in my sin, and my eternal future would look very bleak.

Now for a poetic intermission…

“Without Him”

Without the Lord, I’m nothing
– a face without a smile;
A drone with little emotion,
yet quite easily riled.
Without the Lord in control,
I’m just an empty shell.
No thoughts of the future,
It’s too far off to tell.
But Jesus is the same today
as He was yesterday;
The future’s already known to Him,
and He faithfully shows the way.
My joy restored, I sing out loud
Praising the Lord Most High;
For without Jesus, I go empty,
but with Him, I never run dry.
With Him is perfect love
which casts away my fear;
He comes close to me
when I humbly draw near.
For with Him is life
without Him is sin;
But with Him there’s forgiveness,
and I can begin again!

3-7-94
©Ladeena Ashley

Okay, now for the best part…

With God
GOOD feels great! I gratefully acknowledge that all I have is from God; life and priorities are focused on things of eternal worth. Each day as I look to God, spending time with Him in prayer and reading His Word, He transforms me. Spirit renewed, I’m more keenly aware of both the beauty and pain in the world. In response to the needs I see around me, deep satisfaction is found in serving others, as He leads. Relationships bring a thousand times more meaning and fulfillment into my life, because I’m part of a larger family, sharing the same hope, faith and struggles with others.
As I learn and grow ever closer in relationship with God, there is an indescribable peace, deep joy and strong love not found anywhere else but in full surrender to a loving Savior. I know because I’ve experienced it in my own life and witnessed it in the lives of many believers around me.

BAD situations force me to rely on and draw courage from God. Though life isn’t perfect and not every problem is solved instantly, there is an incredible comfort and strength simply knowing that God loves me, He walks with me, and He knows me inside and out. I am known by the God of the universe!
Like most people, I do still occasionally whine about what’s going wrong in my life, but once I shift my focus off of myself and my circumstances and back onto Him, a powerful sense of hope and peace floods in. He reminds me of His promises, and I claim them boldly in prayer, often personalizing them to my situation. Just the other day I prayed, “Lord, I will not be anxious about anything, but I pray with thankfulness as I present my needs to You, knowing Your peace – a peace that passes all human understanding – will calm my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

UGLY trials and disasters are possible to overcome because I’ve learned to trust God through lesser calamities. When under pressure, as I lean fully on the Lord, He gives me wisdom to make good decisions. With every step taken in faith, confidence, contentment and joy builds, carrying me onward. “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalms 43:5)
My faith gives me hope, but also an eternal perspective on my troubles. Specifically, I don’t fear death! For to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). When my earthly life is through, I’ll transition to an eternal life filled with indescribable love and peace, because of what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection. In trusting and following Him, victory and joy can be ours here on earth and forever in heaven!

I shudder to think how my life would be without God. Exhausted, hopeless and empty, to say the least. But thanks be to God for His infinite grace and love, for by it I have been redeemed and continually transformed from the inside out!

Go With God!

My prayer is that you are also “with God”, and trusting Him no matter what life throws at you, whether good, bad or ugly. Jesus didn’t promise that life with Him would be easy, in fact He said in this world we will have problems, but He has overcome the world, and so shall we!

When life is good, bad or ugly, we can have joy, strength and victory with God, through Jesus!

Note: This post is much longer than I’d intended, but it’s what I felt led to share. I never know what God will lead me to write, but it’s always a fun and rewarding adventure! Thanks for coming along with me on it!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Dispel The Shadow Of Doubt!

20160126_155150

 

Doubt is sneaky. It’s like the first shadow of what could turn into a long dismal winter of fear. From the first suspicion that something or someone isn’t what or who we thought they were, to the nagging lack of confidence in ourselves, doubt can be a powerful thing.

I’ve been experiencing a bit of doubt lately. Both in pondering our future as a nation under a new president, and personally as I’ve accepted a more proactive role within the leadership of my church. Tonight was my first official meeting after a long break from significant responsibilities. I hardly spoke a word. I’m praying a lot for help getting back into the swing of things, with no shortage of consternation on my part.

Power In Purpose
Isn’t it all too easy to look at at that’s wrong in the world and in ourselves? Look at the problems instead of His power? We have all been placed in our respective stations in life for a grander purpose. That purpose is to glorify and serve the One Who has given each of us what – all in all – is a beautiful life, and the hope of an infinitely better one. We have this light, this treasure in jars of clay to show that the God of the universe faithfully gives us the power to work out His perfect plan and purposes through us we continue submitting to Him (Philippians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 4:7)!

One Step Away…
One of the enemy’s main tactics, besides apathy and anger, is fear. And, as I said in my opening lines, doubt is usually the beginning of fear! We may doubt simple everyday things like whether or not we will make it to work or school at a certain time, but if we ever question God’s faithfulness, sovereignty, or power to change lives, it is the devil’s way of trying to get a foothold. Becoming doubt-full is to be full of nothing productive; instead it’s the beginning stages of becoming faithless and even hopeless.

On the contrary, when we are tempted to lose heart, to stand down from the battle and even collapse in a heap into the nearest chair, it’s then that we must cry out to the Lord, “help my unbelief!” and “I need Your strength!”. Casting our cares upon Him means not only putting forth our daily concerns and needs, but also voicing our fears, failures and yes, doubts. Doubts will come; just don’t let them take root and become an even bigger problem. Instead, let the light of Christ so shine in and through you that doubt has no place in your life (2 Corinthians 4:6)! Blast away the shadow of doubt with the light of faith!

Here’s a poem I wrote many years ago about doubt and how to dispel it:

“In the Shadow Of A Doubt”

In the shadow of a doubt
the enemy lies in wait
for us to hear the Lord’s commands
and have the urge to hesitate.
Waiting to devour us like a lion,
but appearing meek as a lamb;
We need to keep our eyes focused
on the Light, the great “I AM”.
For Jesus is the Light of the world,
the One whose light is true;
The One who’ll never forsake us
but Who loves us and sees us through.
In the pain of our toughest trials,
when we’re not sure what’s to be,
at those most difficult times
is when we’re more fully free.
He loves us, He’ll take the burden
– He took on all of the blame;
He wants to love all your cares away
– love’s the reason why He came.
As soon as we commit our ways
to the Lord and His loving laws,
the enemy in the shadow of doubt
has no place to sink his claws.

7-5-92
©Ladeena Ashley

Pray!
Please join me in praying for our nation as we prepare to welcome a new commander-in-chief to the White House. Doubts and fears about the future, as well as anger and discontentment have been expressed by many individuals and groups, and may continue long into the weeks (or months) ahead.

Pray for a peaceful transition, and for the new leadership on all levels. Regardless of your personal views, if leadership fails, we all lose, so PRAY for their success as we move forward into this new chapter of government and world history as a whole. Overall, let us all be beacons of Christ’s light of hope in the darkness, wherever we may find it!

God’s Word
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” James 1:5-7

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:19

“But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3

“Do all things without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe…” Philippians 2:14-15

Faith Notes
Keep on Pushing Back the Dark – a great song by Josh Wilson
(Note: Link opens in a new window.)

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)